Are you interested in sewing but feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the different features of sewing machines? I’ve got you covered! This guide will take you through all the different parts of the sewing machine and explain what they do so you can easily identify them and start sewing like a pro.

If you need help with your sewing machine, don’t worry! You can usually find helpful manuals online. Just quickly search using the brand, make, or model number.

I have a Bernette B38 sewing machine, and it’s lovely to sew with. This sewing machine is an investment, but I think it’s worth it if you’re an avid sewer like me.

If you are new to sewing and don’t own a sewing machine yet, check out my guide to sewing machines for beginners. It includes a bunch of top-rated and budget-friendly sewing machines.

Diagram of parts of the sewing machine with numbers to each component

How Does a Sewing Machine Work

Before we jump into the components of a sewing machine, you may be wondering how a sewing machine works.

When you start a sewing machine and press down on the presser foot, it sets the needle in motion, going up and down.

The needle is connected to a little arm that guides the thread through the fabric in a specific way.

There’s a bobbin underneath the fabric that holds the bottom thread.

When the needle goes through the fabric, it joins the top and bottom threads to create a stitch.

To keep the fabric in the right place and moving smoothly, a metal plate called the feed dog pushes the fabric under the presser foot smoothly.

As the sewing machine creates stitches, the fabric continues moving through the machine thanks to the feed dogs guiding it.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure here.

Sewing Machine Diagram

Diagram of parts of the sewing machine with numbers to each component

Sewing Machine Components

1. Bobbin Winder

This is where you wind your thread onto a small spool called a bobbin. The bobbin sits on the pin. When the pin is pushed to the right, it clicks into place, and the sewing machine registers that the bobbin needs to be wound. When the foot pedal is pressed, the sewing machine’s bobbin winder will spin and fill up with thread. The bobbin goes into the sewing machine’s bottom part and feeds thread up for stitching.

2. Thread Guide

The thread guide is a small metal or plastic piece that guides your thread through the machine. It helps to keep the thread from tangling or breaking while you sew.

3. Spool Pin or Holder

This is where you place your spool of thread. It holds the spool in place and helps to feed the thread through the sewing machine. Some sewing machines have two thread holders. There are different types of sewing threads for sewing machines but the spools work.

4. Fly Wheel

This large wheel on the machine’s side helps control the needle and feed the fabric through the machine. You can turn this towards you to get the need to lift up or away from you to lower the needle.

5. Bobbin Winder Tension Dial

This small dial adjusts the tension on the thread as it winds onto the bobbin. It helps ensure the thread winds evenly and doesn’t get tangled.

6. Feed Dogs

This is the funny name for the small metal teeth on the bottom of the machine that helps to feed the fabric through the machine as you sew.

7. Needle and Needle Clamp

The needle is the part of the machine that punctures the fabric to create stitches. The needle clamp holds the needle in place, usually by a small screw.

8. Presser Foot

This small metal or plastic foot presses down on the fabric as you sew. It helps to hold the fabric in place and feed it through the machine. The sewing machine has many types of presser feet, like a zipper foot. They can be swapped by a simple lever or small screw. A dial on the you’ve machine can often adjust the pressure. This is helpful when you are sewing lightweight or thicker types of fabrics.

9. Thread Cutter

Most sewing machines have a small blade on the side that cuts the thread after you’ve finished sewing a seam.

10. Reverse Stitch Button

You can press this button on the machine to sew in reverse. Older machines may have a lever to reverse the stitch. This helps to secure your stitches at the start and end of a seam.

11. Stitch Functions

The machine has various settings that allow you to choose different types of stitches. For example, you might choose a straight stitch or a zigzag stitch. This varies depending on the type of machine you have. Most sewing machines include 15-20 standard stitch types, including buttonholes.

12. Throat Plate

The throat plate is a metal or plastic plate on the bottom of the sewing machine that covers the bobbin area. It helps to keep the fabric from getting caught in the bobbin as you sew.

13. Stitch Length

This setting on the machine allows you to adjust the length of your stitches. This is useful for creating different effects on different types of fabric. For example, sewing a gathering stitch requires a longer stitch length so the fabric can bunch together when the threads are pulled.

14. Stitch Width

This setting on the machine allows you to adjust the width of your stitches. This is useful for creating different effects on different types of fabric. It is useful when sewing a zigzag stitch as you may want it wider to catch more fabric.

15. Display Screen

Some newer sewing machines have a small display screen on the machine that shows you various settings and information about your sewing. This sewing machine relies on the screen for changing all the stitch settings.

16. Bobbin & Bobbin Case

The bobbin is a small spool of thread that goes into the bottom of the machine. The bobbin case holds the bobbin in place and helps to feed the thread through the machine.

17. Foot Pedal

This is a small pedal on the floor that you press your foot to control the speed of the machine. Pressing harder makes the machine go faster, while pressing lighter makes it slower.

18. Take-Up Lever

When you’re using a sewing machine, a metal lever moves up and down with the needle. This lever is where the top thread passes through. Sometimes you can see the lever in front of the machine, but other times it’s hidden inside. Before you start sewing, make sure to raise the lever all the way up (so the needle is at its highest point). This will prevent the needle from getting caught on the fabric when you start sewing.

19. Tension Dial

To get a smooth and even stitch, you need to ensure the top and bottom threads are joined together correctly. You can adjust the tension of the top thread using a dial on the sewing machine. If the tension is too tight, the stitch will look bunched up and might even break. If it’s too loose, the stitches won’t hold together properly. For machines with a manual dial, turn it one way to make the tension looser and the other way to make it tighter. If your machine has a computerised display, press the control to increase or decrease the tension as needed.

Extra Functions

Not all sewing machines will have these extra functions, but this sewing machine does. Let’s look at what these extra bits do.

20. Automatic Thread Cutter

This handy feature lets you cut your thread quickly and easily without reaching for a separate pair of scissors. Press the button or lever, and the machine will snip your thread for you!

21. Sewing Speed Adjuster

The sliding dial allows you to control the speed of the sewing machine when stitching. If you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to start slowing and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the machine. I like setting my machine on slow when I’m making delicate garments.

22. Start/Stop Button

This button lets you start and stop your sewing machine without using a foot pedal. I rarely use my foot pedal because I find this button easier. It also reduces the amount of cords that are in my sewing space.

23. Lockstitch

This button is used to secure your stitches and prevent them from unravelling. It’s especially important when sewing items that will be subject to a lot of wear and tear, like clothing or bags. To use the lockstitch function, press the button or lever, and the machine will sew a few stitches in place to secure your work.


Now that you’ve got a good grasp on how a sewing machine operates and the function of its components, it’s time to move on to the next steps: winding up a bobbin and threading the machine.

More Helpful Sewing Blogs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *